Jeddah book group leads reading revival through novel initiative

Huda Merchant, founder of Jeddah Reads, left, with other members of the group. The team aims to boost literary activites in Jeddah. (Supplied photo )
Updated 15 January 2019

Jeddah book group leads reading revival through novel initiative

  • Jeddah Reads aims to revive reading in the city by making books more available for people yet to discover their inner bibliophile
  • Huda Merchant says she was encouraged to organize the group after noticing a "complete lack of a reading culture” in the city

JEDDAH: In a world dominated by the smartphone and the screen, bookworms have been forced to retreat into the shadows, rarely seen beyond the inner sanctums of libraries and reading rooms. Jeddah Reads, though, plans to change that.

A book-based social initiative, Jeddah Reads is a group that came together with one aim: To revive reading in their city by making books more available for people yet to discover their inner bibliophile.

Formed in 2015, the group thinks that by holding reading groups, workshops and social gatherings, more people will make the choice to start reading for themselves.

Huda Merchant, founder of Jeddah Reads, explained: “In 2014, I was researching cultural issues and trends in Saudi Arabia, and something I noticed was the complete lack of a reading culture.”

Among the projects being organized is Wameed 2.0, a series of talks on various themes, recent growth and change to coincide with the new year, to encourage people to use books to help them achieve their goals.

Abrar Al-Qayem, the project manager, said: “We try to have passionate members. That is the soul of this particular project; to encourage people with creative ideas, be they language-based, say, or artistic, who want to develop them.”



Jeddah Reads has reached out to coffee shops and hospitals to promote their message. “We would like to see people reading books instead of texting,” Al-Qayem added. “Reading in the community is dying.” 

When gathering information about reading in schools, for example, Jeddah Reads made the shocking discovery that over 60 percent of them don’t have libraries. 

“There is a stigma about reading, because new devices are faster and more efficient. We aim to change this, to eliminate the stigma associated with reading,” said Al-Qayem.

The group gives free packages to new readers, with stationery, trinkets and, of course, a book. “We leave it up to chance to decide if the reader will like it!” Al-Qayem explained. 

“For me, reading is healing. I faced a lot of health problems, so I was always stuck with a book. Reading became an escape. I believe that words are powerful; you can always go anywhere through books.”

The next stage for Jeddah Reads is to expand their events to cater for all genders, age groups and genres, and at the rate the movement is progressing, it surely won’t be long before the population of Jeddah transforms into an army of avid readers.

Jeddah Season provides seasonal employment for young Saudis

Updated 18 June 2019

Jeddah Season provides seasonal employment for young Saudis

JEDDAH: The Jeddah Season festival has provided a wide range of seasonal employment opportunities for young Saudi men and women, helping them gain experience and prepare them to enter the job market.

More than 5,000 young Saudis are working around the clock, each in his or her field, to manage the festival’s activities.

The festival aims to highlight development opportunities in Saudi Arabia, introduce the Kingdom as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, support the government’s efforts to empower Saudi youths, support local small and medium enterprises, develop Jeddah’s tourism sector and provide volunteer opportunities.

Jeddah Season, which began on June 8 and runs until July 18, has attracted thousands of visitors of all ages through its 150 local and international events and activities.

It is being held at five sites: King Abdullah Sports City, Al-Hamra Corniche, the Jeddah Waterfront, Obhur and Historic Jeddah (Al-Balad), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jeddah Season offers a wide range of tourism, entertainment and cultural events and activities, and sheds light on the city’s status as the Kingdom’s tourism capital. Most of its events are being held for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah Season is in line with the Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to advance the welfare of Saudi society, diversify local development opportunities, improve the Kingdom’s contribution to arts and culture, and create job opportunities for Saudi youths.